There’s no longer any doubt. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, governor of Louisiana, clearly wants to be our president. Having vaulted onto the national stage in February, 2009, when he gave the Republican’s response to Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress (and received mixed reviews), he’s once again making news. Jindal was chosen to give the keynote address at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, on January 24, in Charlotte, NC.
When you keep getting picked as the main speaker for these things, it means: (1) that you crave the national spotlight, and (2) that your party is more than willing to give it you, provided you don’t crash and burn. Obviously, it’s too early to make any predictions about who the 2016 nominees will be. We need only recall that, in early 2004, Tennessee Senator Bill Frist was touted as the Republican frontrunner
The highlight of Jindal’s 25-minute address was his tough talk. “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party,” he said. “We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.” Presumably, he was referring to Mitt Romney’s startling indictment of 47-percent of the U.S. population, and Ted Akins’ lunatic assertion that women couldn’t get pregnant from a “legitimate rape.”
Although tough talk from politicians is usually welcome, American voters get very nervous when they hear one Republican warning other Republicans “not to make any stupid statements.” They take this as code for “Don’t tell the truth.” Because if women, gays, ethnic minorities and working people knew how exclusionary and mean-spirited the Republicans really were, the Party would implode like a supernova.
No one can argue that Bobby Jindal isn’t intelligent. Born in Baton Rouge to Indian immigrants, he was a brilliant student and teenage dynamo. In high school he not only excelled academically, he played varsity tennis and launched two businesses of his own: a retail candy operation and a mail-order software service. He later graduated with honors from Brown University at the age of twenty, and attended New College, Oxford,, as a Rhodes Scholar.
Jindal declined an offer to study for a Ph.D. in political science at Oxford, and, impressively, was accepted by both Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School, neither of which he attended. However, before we gush too much over his academic pedigree, it should be noted that the only U.S. president in history to hold degrees from both Yale and Harvard is George W. Bush.
He is married to an Indian woman named Supriya, who was born in New Delhi. They have three kids. Not to be snarky, but one of their sons is named Slade. While that is a very cool name, it seems somehow incongruous for the Jindal family. It seems too hip, too stylish, for transplanted Indians. In truth, “Slade” seem more appropriate for Romney’s kids, one of whom is named Taggart….or for Sarah Palin’s boys, two of whom are named Track and Trig.
On the subject of names, it’s fascinating to learn how Piyush acquired the name “Bobby.” It turns out that his family began calling him that because he was such a huge fan of the TV show The Brady Bunch, and Bobby Brady was his favorite character. That’s a true story.
Given this account, we can only speculate that, had young Piyush’s favorite show been Happy Days, he might very well have taken the name “Fonzie.” Which raises the existential question: Would the good people of Louisiana have been willing to elect a governor named Fonzie Jindal? We’ll never know.
Governor Jindal is also a paleo-conservative. He not only opposes abortion and same-sex marriage (meat and potatoes for a conservative Republican), he hates the government, wants to build a fence on the Mexican border, supports a constitutional amendment to make flag-burning illegal, wants “intelligent design” taught in schools, has voted to extend the Patriot Act, and has been praised by the NRA for his steadfast opposition to gun restrictions.
Again, while we can’t predict the future, by the time 2016 rolls around—given that the American public is becoming increasingly “socially liberal”—it’s possible that many of his conservative views will be seen as toxic. In fact, as intelligent as he is, Jindal could find himself being portrayed as the male equivalent of Michelle Bachmann.
David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd Edition), was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org